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Gene serves as both the narrator and protagonist in the novel. Telling the story from his perspective, he recounts his own growth into adulthood — a struggle to face and acknowledge his fundamental nature and to learn from a single impulsive act that irrevocably shapes his life.
Gene\'s name suggests what he might be — but is not. In an ideal matching of gentility with hardiness, "Eugene" means "well born," while "Forrester" suggests natural independence and outdoor resourcefulness. Yet Gene seems neither particularly noble nor physically impressive; his character, in fact, finds its definition in his limitations and his fundamental reserve, rather than his accomplishments.
As a southerner, Gene feels like a stranger in a northern landscape. Attending an elite New England boarding school, he tries to romanticize and inflate his background by hanging pictures of plantations on his wall, hoping to impress fellow students as a southern aristocrat.
A solid but not a brilliant student who succeeds through discipline, obedience, and conventional thinking, Gene at once admires and envies Finny, his roommate, for whom athletic — if not scholastic — success comes so easily. Gene must work hard for everything he attains, and so he resents the ease of Finny\'s physical ability and the graceful spontaneity with which he engages life.
By his very nature, Gene conforms and embraces the conventional. In contrast to Finny, he wants to follow the rules — spoken and unspoken — as...